Eating Right

DR SEEMIN RUBAB

In the present market driven economy our eating habits have changed drastically. Instead of natural healthy diet a shift towards processed unhealthy food is on rise. Lots of people are suffering from diseases which are due to unhealthy lifestyle and diet. Proper selection and creative preparation with an understanding of basic science of cooking can help in enhancing the health and nutrition value of food. Not to talk of deprived, illiterate or uneducated, even many well to do educated persons fail to take balanced diet. Most of the people are unaware of the fact that the three common food items viz., sugar, salt and refined white flour are not good for health.

Majority of the people tend either to under eat or over eat certain nutrients. For staying healthy each of the six types of nutrients viz., carbohydrate, proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats and water in right proportion are essential. Dieticians believe that carbohydrates are the main source of body’s energy and about half of the daily calories may come from carbohydrates.

For carbohydrate intake whole grains, vegetables and fruits are healthier options. Sugar and other processed carbohydrates provide empty calorie without any mineral or micro-nutrients. Vitamins and minerals act as catalysts and found in a wide variety of foods. A healthy diet must also include (10-15) % of the daily calories from 2-3 servings of a good protein like low fat dairy product, plant proteins, fish, poultry and lean meat. Fats are much maligned component of our diet but they also perform several critical functions. In daily diet, total fat consumption may be limited up to 30% of the total calories.

Cooking oils contain saturated fatty acids (SAFA), mono unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and poly unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in varying proportions. Without going into the nitty gritty of SAFA, MUFA or PUFA a consumer can simply restrict its visible fats to a maximum of 2-3 tablespoon per day. This daily allowance may be equally distributed between SAFA, MUFA and PUFA.   Simply put it means never use any single cooking oil. No oil is absolutely good or bad. Keep a variety of cooking medium in your kitchen. One can choose from olive, mustard, safflower, sunflower, corn oil, wheat germ oil, flaxseed oil, groundnut oil and ghee for various tasks and recipes. Always use oil in just sufficient quantities in any recipe and never use leftover oil after deep frying as fats are altered by high temperature and turn into toxic compounds.

There is general consensus among diet gurus regarding the adverse impacts of vanaspati, margarine, coconut and palm oil. So restrict their usage.

One should take plenty of fluids for proper metabolism. Fluid could be anything from plain water, fresh juices of seasonal fruits, lassi of low fat yoghurt. Tea and coffee are not preferred fluid as they promote dehydration through enhanced urination.

Daily calorie intake per kg of body weight is about 30 for a person leading active life and having optimum body weight according to his/her height.    If calorie arithmetic terrifies you, then eat 6-10 servings of cereal, 3-5 servings of  vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruits, 2-3 servings of low fat dairy product like cottage cheese, yoghurt and 2-3 servings of pulses and nuts per day. Non vegetarians can take 1-2 servings of fish, poultry or lean meat instead of plant protein. Here one serving means one roti of whole wheat flour (Chokerdar atta) or half cup cooked rice/ vegetable/pulses .Salts and sugars should be eaten sparingly. Salads, fruits and juices should be taken without table salt.

Vegetables and fruit already contain the requisite salts. Jaggery and honey are better sweeteners than sugar due to their micronutrients. Unpolished rice is preferable. Rice shouldn’t be washed with large amount of water as it depletes about 40% thiamine and niacin content. Vegetables should be chopped quickly just before cooking to avoid exposure to air and subsequent oxidation and loss of nutrients. Moreover they should be washed thoroughly before chopping instead of washing after chopping to prevent loss of water soluble nutrients.
As the gap between dinner and breakfast is large, so breakfast should be heavy, lunch moderate and dinner again heavy. And remember, dinner should be taken 2-3 hours before going to bed.

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